Hello SixPrizes Underground! Being this is my first article, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Brandon Cantu and I have been playing the Pokémon TCG competitively for almost three years now. Some of my notable accomplishments include: Top 16 Worlds 2014, one Regionals runner-up, two State Championship wins, two State Championship runner-ups, and seven City Championship wins. (For more, see this interview conducted by Alex Hill with me over the summer.)
As a player, I tend to favor oddball decks. When I say “oddball,” I do not necessarily mean rogue but decks that see less play or have techs thrown in to throw off opponents. I find these type of decks are able to provide a competitive edge, and thus oddballs will be the decks I go over today for both the Standard and Expanded formats.
Newsflash: City Championships are just a few weeks away! It will be interesting to see what new decks develop and how the meta may shift. At the end of each of the following sections, I will summarize what metagames will be conducive to each deck and why. Picking the right deck can be just as important as picking a strong one, if not more so, especially when deviating from the norm, and therefore I believe it’s doubly important we pay careful attention to the competition when making an unorthodox deck selection.
There have not been any major tournaments played in the Standard format for us to get an idea of what will be most heavily played. I do see some of the most popular decks being M Manectric variants, Vespiquen variants, Gengar/Trevenant, Magnezone/Raikou, Wobbuffet/Crobat, and Lucario/Crobat. There are still many other decks in the format but I believe these will be the most popular. This brings me to the first deck I will be going over …
Pokémon – 19
4 Milotic PRC
Trainers – 37
3 Head Ringer
Energy – 4
This deck’s strategy is to devolve Milotic every turn with Porygon-Z’s first attack, Digital Reboot. Digital Reboot lets you devolve as many of your Benched Pokémon as you would like and put them into your hand. This lets you reuse Milotic’s Ability, Sparkling Ripples, every turn to recycle powerful Trainer cards. Your goal is to run your opponent out of Energy and then use Trick Shovel continuously to deck them out.
The 15 Single-Copy Cards
I am going to group these all together since the explanation for each is similar. Milotic allows you to recycle a card multiple times per turn, so only a single copy of a card is needed most of the time. You can win most of your games with any one, two, or even three of these cards being prized. There is overlap for many of the effects these cards provide. For example, Startling Megaphone’s and Enhanced Hammer’s effects are both covered by Xerosic, so if one of the two were prized then you would still have the option of using the effect you need as long as Xerosic is available. AZ, Sacred Ash, and Target Whistle are also 1-of’s, but their effects are only seen once in the deck. This is because the deck’s strategy is not completely hindered if they are prized.
All of these cards are disruption cards with the exception Sacred Ash, AZ, and Professor Birch’s Observations. Sacred Ash is in the deck because even though your goal is to deck out your opponent you are likely to find yourself low on cards toward the end of the game and will need to shuffle cards back in. Professor Birch’s Observations is in the deck for a reason similar to Sacred Ash. It will keep cards in your deck for longer as well as serve as an early-game Supporter. AZ is in the deck primarily to pick up Shaymin-EX from your Bench to deny Prizes as well as make room for more Milotic to end the game quicker. I could see replacing AZ with Sky Field as an alternative, but I prefer having one of our other Stadiums in play.
Trick Shovel is your win condition so you cannot afford to play a single copy. Once you find one copy though it is nearly the same as having four since it can be recycled multiple times a turn with Milotic. There are 3 copies of Crushing Hammer since these will need to be played early before Milotic is set up in order to slow down your opponent. If a M Manectric is able to get off a Turbo Bolt quickly it will make winning much harder and slower so early Energy denial is a must.
There are 3 copies of Head Ringer to make sure your opponents’ Pokémon-EX such as Manectric won’t be able to attack. One copy will not be very effective if they are able to switch into another attacker that cannot be Head Ringer’d. Only 2 copies of VS Seeker are played since Milotic’s Ability is basically the same as VS Seeker so it is not needed much outside of the early game.
I have seen some Porygon lists with Crawdaunt in the deck but I do not think it is necessary. Crawdaunt is very situational. It is only useful when an Energy is on the Defending Pokémon, whereas Milotic which can grab a Crushing Hammer and target an Energy on the Bench (or Active). Milotic is good every turn and Crawdunt is not. If I can grab a Flare Grunt and 2 Crushing Hammer in a single turn with Milotic I will probably be discarding all the Energy I need.
4 Double Colorless Energy
There are only 4 Energy in this deck since they can be recycled with Milotic so easily. Double Colorless can also be used for Poryzon-Z’s second attack, Dazzle Blast. For a DCE it does 50 damage and confuses the Defending Pokémon. The damage is almost irrelevant since you will not likely be winning on Prizes, but the Confusion is huge. Stopping your opponent from attacking half of the time can be a game-changer.
I see this deck as very strong in a meta without Crobat. This deck folds to anything that does 30 damage to KO Feebas. A copy of Mountain Ring or Mr. Mime PLF could be added to deal with Marowak BKT but the real problem is Crobat. This deck has a near auto-loss to Crobat. If there is nothing that targets the Bench in your meta I would suggest this deck. It has very strong matchups against almost everything else in the format. You will probably want to play this deck at a fast pace since games can take many turns to finish.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 34
Energy – 9
I like to call this deck the “Shaymin Crusher” since that is likely how most of your Prizes will be taken. This deck exploits a format that is heavily reliant on Shaymin-EX. The strategy is to use Pyroar PHF to bring up what you want to attack every turn. The synergy between Mega Manectric and this Pyroar is obviously strong but pair it with Target Whistle and you have a very formidable combination.
This format’s two best options for drawing cards are Shaymin-EX and Professor Sycamore. Almost every deck plays Shaymin-EX. Even if your opponent does not bench Shaymin it will likely be end up in the discard due to Professor Sycamore at some point. This gives you a fighting chance against every deck in the format.
This line is opposite of what you typically see. The reason is the focus on Pyoar PHF and its Flare Command Ability. The other Pyroar is there as a cheesy win tactic or stall card if you need time to set up. I do not think Pyroar FLF can be a win condition anymore because nearly every deck has an answer to it with Hex Maniac. You will only need one Pyroar set up — and maybe a second for insurance — which is why there are only three Litleo. So we really run a 3-2 line of the important Pyroar, which is what we are used to seeing. The other Pyroar is just a bonus.
This is one of the fastest draw engines we have for the Standard and Expanded formats. 4 Trainers’ Mail and 4 Acro Bike combined with 2 Shaymin-EX make it very easy to dig for almost any card you need in a single turn. 1 Hoopa-EX is great in all decks with Mega Pokémon. Its Ability is incredible and makes your setup that much faster.
This card is what makes the deck shine. Once your opponent places down a Shaymin-EX you will likely be able to take 4-6 Prizes from it. This deck usually sets up around turn three and after that you will be taking Prizes every turn. I can see even playing a third Target Whistle in case one is discarded early or one is prized. Two is typically all you need to finish a game.
I mentioned earlier that this deck stands a chance against anything. It can even beat what would seem to be auto-losses such as Lucario/Crobat as long as you are able to take timely knockouts on their Shaymin-EXs. If the new Gallade becomes popular — which I think it will — I would consider adding Flash Energy to deal with Manectric’s abysmal Weakness. This deck could also be a strong play for Expanded format with a few minor changes. If your meta has no Fighting decks then I could see this as a very strong contender for City Championships.
Pokémon – 26
Trainers – 26
Energy – 8
This is the typical Vespiquen deck you see. With Evolutions running rampant, Banette seems like a solid partner for Vespiquen. Banette for 1 P Energy prevents your opponent from evolving any Pokémon from their hand. Some popular Evolutions are: Bronzong, Magnezone, Vespiquen, Crobat, M Manectric, M Rayquaza, Marowak, Raichu, Aromatisse, Mienshao, and more. Banette can outright just win against these Evolution decks by itself or give you time to set up. Banette also serves as great fodder for Vespiquen’s Bee Revenge when it is not needed.
Most Vespiquen decks play Bronzong or Blacksmith to deal with Giratina-EX AOR’s powerful Chaos Wheel. This deck has the built-in counter of Shuppet. Shuppet discards a Special Energy for 1 Psychic which is great for preventing a Chaos Wheel from ruining your day. Now let’s go over some of the tech cards in the deck.
For those of you who do not know what Banette does, it prevents all effects of Tools on both sides of the field. This is an easy inclusion since we are already running the other Banette. This is similar to Pyroar I mentioned earlier; it is not needed and your strategy does not depend on it, but why not play it if you are already running a Banette line? Every Pokémon is beneficial since they can be discarded for Vespiquen as well.
Banette can also help against all Mega Pokémon and Focus Sash. Having to waste a turn to evolve Mega Pokémon is the reason why they were not heavily played before Spirit Links were printed. If you can make your opponent waste a turn evolving, you have probably won.
Gallade serves not only as a counter to M Manectric but it is also a huge consistency booster. It has a very powerful attack and 150 HP. M Manectric will struggle to take down this monster; if unprepared, Gallade will take an easy win. This deck is not very reliant on getting it out turn one since it is not essential to the deck’s strategy. It also works great in the discard — it should always the first Pokémon you want to discard to power up Vespiquen. You can use both Banette to slow down Manectric in order to set up Gallade since the Basic Manectric-EX will be limited to 60 damage as well as no Energy acceleration. Overall I think this is a very solid card that will see a lot of play in other decks, especially if they struggle with Manectric.
With Bunnelby in a deck I always feel safe. If managed properly you will never run out of resources. Sacred Ash also lets you infinitely loop Bunnelby if necessary. It is another Pokémon to fuel Vespiquen and can even pull out surprise deck-outs on unsuspecting opponents. If your opponent knows you play Bunnelby it may also make them play around it which may benefit you.
This is one of the best promos I have seen in a while. It turns the Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX matchup from a questionable matchup into an easy one.
Vespiquen can struggle with Giratina-EX decks and this gives it a solid answer. Shuppet discards a Special Energy but is Knocked Out the following turn most of time whereas Jirachi can go on to take out multiple Double Dragon Energy. Since this deck does not run Blacksmith or Bronzong, a Giratina-EX counter is needed. Shuppet alone does not do enough to solidly counter it.
If you see there is an Evolution deck sitting across from you, you are going to want to get Banette out as quickly as possible. Banette can evolve turn one thanks to its Delta Evolution Ancient Trait, making it very useful in stopping other Evolutions. Even though you will likely be able to attack on your first turn, you still want to go first. Going second and pulling off the first attack is not nearly as good as setting up your other attackers.
Doing extra damage is great. Giovanni’s Scheme also doubles as a decent draw Supporter if need be. If you set up the Banette with Tool Concealment then your Muscle Bands do not work. Then you may ask why not just play more Pokémon for Vespiquen instead? The reason is you will not always set up that Banette and the other Banette only does 20 damage without Muscle Band, which is really poor. If you combine Muscle Band with Giovanni’s Scheme, Banette can start Knocking Out 60-HP Basics which is very strong. Jirachi can also take out Joltik with a Muscle Band and Giovanni’s Scheme which swings the matchup heavily in your favor. Muscle Band and Giovanni’s Scheme in conjunction make all the low-damage output Pokémon have much more potential.
Out of the three Standard decks I talked about I feel this Vespiquen has the most potential. It covers a wide range of matchups and stands a decent chance against most things. I can see this deck having problems with disruption decks or Gengar/Trevenant. Wally goes through Banette’s jamming effect which could cause some problems if you are unable to get enough Pokémon in the discard early. If your meta is heavy on Evolutions then I suggest giving this deck a try.
There are no cards released in BREAKthrough that stand out as having a major impact on the Expanded format. I expect to see many of the decks that did well at Regionals continue to do well. There are so many different decks in Expanded that knowing your meta will be even more important. The first deck we look at will seek to exploit that.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
This deck gained a great card from BREAKthrough: Smeargle! This is my favorite card from the set. It lets you switch a basic Energy attached to your Active with a basic Energy in your discard. I can see this card making many rogue decks in the future. Smeargle has amazing synergy with Ho-Oh. It helps boost this deck’s consistency that much more as well as make your Energy last longer. What I mean by your Energy lasting longer is maybe you had to discard a Grass early on and all you have in your hand is a Lightning; now you can replace it and make your G Energy last longer.
You are looking at a teched out Virizion/Genesect deck, put simple. This deck is very fast and can get a turn one Emerald Slash often. I think this deck is easily Tier 1 and can compete with many of the others.
2 Virizion-EX, 2 Genesect-EX
In an ideal world we would play 4 Virizion-EX and 3 Genesect-EX but instead I have slimmed down the line to 2-of each for space reasons. Even though there are only 2-of each you do not usually struggle finding either since there are so many cards to search through your deck quickly. You usually only need 1 Virizion-EX throughout an entire game and you cannot power up more than 2 Genesect-EX, so as long as you do not prize any it works out great.
Manectric is here to take out Yveltal-EX mainly as well as other Lightning-weak Pokémon. Manectric does rely on your opponent having a Tool on their Active to 1HKO — but I still think it is better than the alternative of Stunfisk BKT. Stunfisk BKT is has the attack Revenge which does 20 damage + 80 more if one of your Pokémon was Knocked Out by damage from an opponent’s attack last turn. I think this can be played around much easier with Laser and Hex Maniac. Manectric does Knock Out M Rayquaza-EX whereas Stunfisk needs a Muscle Band to respond. The fact that Stunfisk also requires a knockout in order to activate is a huge downside. Manectric being aggressive is what makes it deserve the spot. Stunfisk is a non-EX attacker though which always nice so it is worth consideration.
Latios-EX is in the deck to steal games away from your opponent. Two of the deck’s worst matchups are Vespiquen and Night March. Both of these decks have very low-HP Basic Pokémon which can be easily Knocked Out by Latios-EX. Smeargle also makes attacking with Latios very consistent. All you need to get a turn one attack with Latios is a Smeargle, a basic Energy, and a way to make Latios active. This is very easy with all the draw power in this deck.
I do not really see a way to beat Night March or Vespiquen other than a donk, so that is why this card is included.
Something to keep in mind is that this will likely only work in a best-of-one format.
Archeops is and will always be a very strong card. There are many Evolutions that can ruin your day such as Bronzong and Vespiquen. Even if your opponent runs counters to evolve under Archeops — such as a Hex Maniac or Wobbuffet — they will still have to waste a turn. This can put you far enough ahead that it will not matter that they get out their Evolutions.
This deck aims to counter Seismitoad variants, Bronzong, Yveltal, and Blastoise. It even has the potential to beat Night March and Vespiquen. With so many options I feel like this is one of the strongest plays for Expanded format. Even though it has the potential to beat Night March and Vespiquen I would still not play it if those decks are popular in your area. If both of those decks are not popular then this deck is a solid play. It has great matchups across the field otherwise.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 41
3 Head Ringer
1 Eco Arm
1 Life Dew
Energy – 5
This is similar to the Sableye/Garbodor deck that did well at Regionals but with a much stronger lock. You can still have the same Ability lock with Hex Maniac if necessary as well as the capability to play an additional Supporter. If you do not need to shut off their Abilities you can do some cool combos such as Lysandre and Team Flare Grunt. This deck loses some consistency by playing a Stage 2 but its lock is strong enough that it is worth it.
A single copy of each card is played so when your opponent takes a knockout you are able to set up Magnezone. You are usually able to play an additional Supporter the same turn thanks to Dual Brains. Magnezone can be difficult to set up early if your opponent fails to take a knockout. You can still set it up but it may take 3-4 turns. A single copy of Skyla may be added to speed up the process of searching for the single copy of Rare Candy. If your opponent is taking that long to take a knockout though you should already be ahead.
1 Double Colorless Energy
This has the dual purpose of scooping Shaymin-EX from the field as well as satisfying Bunnelby’s 2 Retreat Cost. You do not want to give your opponent easy Prizes from a Shaymin-EX so eliminating the possibility is very strong.
All of the really important Abilities that need to be shut off are on Basic Pokémon. Anything that has an Ability that evolves can be shut off later with Hex Maniac. Silent Lab gives you Ability lock as early as turn one and can really set your opponent back.
I see this deck doing well in a field that is full of Blastoise, Night March, Vespiquen, and Toad/Giratina. These decks rely heavily on Special Energy with the exception of Blastoise, which Sableye loves. Blastoise is also a great matchup because it relies heavily on abilities. All it takes to win the matchup is a Lysandre and Hex Maniac on a Blastoise. The Blastoise deck is easily picked apart once their Blastoise becomes stranded in the Active Spot. becomes strYour opponent is not likely to take all of their Prizes with 4 DCEs while trying to play around Life Dew. If there is a heavy amount of Yveltal in your meta I would steer clear of this deck. Yveltal is not an auto-loss but it is by no means a good matchup. The Energy acceleration from Dark Patch and Yveltal XY can be hard to overcome. This deck is a lot of fun to play and I would suggest trying it out.
That about wraps up what I have for you guys. I really enjoyed writing my first Underground article. I hope this helped prepare you for Cities a little more. The decks I shared with you are definitely my top choices for Cities and I feel they have the potential to do well.
If you guys have any questions feel free to comment or even message me on Facebook and I will be happy to help. Thank you and good luck to everyone at Cities!
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